Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Estimated number qualified to vote:

over 400

Number of voters:

331 in 1826


902 (1821); 1,080 (1831)


8 Mar. 1820JOHN BAILLIE187
 Benjamin Shaw121
12 June 1826JOHN BAILLIE217
 Robert Farrand172

Main Article

Hedon, the market town for Holderness, lay eight miles east of Hull and very much in its shadow. It consisted chiefly of one street and was described in 1833 as ‘very mean’, with ‘very little appearance of trade or business’.1 The corporation comprised a mayor, nine other aldermen and two bailiffs. The parliamentary franchise was in the freemen, who qualified by birth or apprenticeship. Admissions rose markedly in election years: for example, there were 22 in 1820, 35 in 1826, 42 in 1830 and 13 in 1831, but only 60 in the other nine years (excluding 1832) of this period. Candidates could buy the freedom for 200 guineas; there were three such transactions in this period. Only a quarter of the freemen were residents of Hedon.2 The borough therefore was difficult to manage, the more so as blatant venality was well entrenched. The Tory corporation carried considerable weight in elections. It was dominated by the attorney James Iveson, alderman and town clerk, whose elder brother William, another alderman, had taken a back seat after a radical attack on him as a corrupt boroughmonger in 1818. The wealthy ex-government contractor Christopher Savile, a former Member, had an interest, on which he had successfully put up his bastard son Robert Farrand, a London corn factor, in conjunction with the ‘independent’ Edmund Turton, a Yorkshire squire, in 1818.3 Savile died in 1819, but at the dissolution in 1820, when Turton retired, Farrand, who had gravitated to the Whig opposition in the House, offered again. Iveson and the corporation, determined to recover their position, backed John Baillie, a rich nabob and Inverness-shire laird, who had been cultivating the borough since 1817 but had withdrawn from the contest in 1818. A third man intervened in the person of the Dissenter Benjamin Shaw, a prominent London merchant and Member for Westbury, 1812-18, who stood as an independent.4 In a poll of 298 freemen, Baillie secured the support of 187 (63 per cent) and Farrand that of 182 (61 per cent), while Shaw received 121 votes (41 per cent). Of those who polled, only 76 (26 per cent) were residents. Baillie got 103 plumpers (55 per cent of his total), Farrand one and Shaw two. Baillie’s plumpers included 68 (89 per cent) of the residents. He shared 73 votes with Farrand (39 and 40 per cent of their respective totals) and only 11 with Shaw. Farand and Shaw had 108 split votes (59 and 89 per cent of their respective totals). Baillie received a vote from 89 per cent of the residents and 53 per cent of the out-voters. The proportions for Farrand were 39 per cent and 68 per cent; and for Shaw 13 per cent and 50 per cent.5 On 11 May 1820 a petition in the name of four London voters accusing Baillie of bribery and treating was presented. It was renewed on 26 Jan. 1821 and referred on 13 Feb. 1821 to an election committee, which on the 21st confirmed Baillie’s return. During the inquiry James Iveson dissociated himself from his brother’s earlier activities and a hapless witness for the petitioners perjured himself.6

The inhabitants petitioned the Commons for the abolition of slavery, 15 Mar. 1824, 27 Feb. 1826.7 At the general election of 1826 Baillie and Farrand came forward again. Baillie was joined on the corporation interest by the 25-year-old nephew of the 3rd earl of Clarendon, Thomas Hyde Villiers, who was loosely connected to the foreign secretary Canning and moved in London Benthamite circles. He was reported to have declared his hostility to Catholic relief, which Iveson favoured, but the truth is not clear.8 In a poll of 331 freemen, including only 78 residents (24 per cent), Baillie got the support of 217 (66 per cent) and Villiers that of 182 (55 per cent). Farrand came third with 172 votes (52 per cent). Baillie received 35 plumpers (16 per cent of his total), Villiers only four and Farrand 52 (30 per cent). Baillie and Villiers shared 120 votes (55 and 66 per cent of their respective totals), Baillie and Farrand 62 (29 and 36 per cent) and Villers and Farrand 58 (32 and 34 per cent). Villiers’s advantage of 58 in split votes with Baillie was decisive. Baillie received a vote from 67 of the residents (86 per cent), Villiers from 45 (58 per cent) and Farrand from 28 (36 per cent). Among out-voters the proportions voting for Baillie, Villiers and Farrand were 59, 54 and 57 per cent respectively.9 Farrand petitioned, 4 Dec. 1826, alleging bribery and treating by Villiers, but, after several delays over recognizances, the committee declared Villiers duly elected, 30 Mar. 1827.10

Hedon tradesmen, artisans and labourers petitioned the Commons against interference with the corn laws, 19 Feb. 1827, local maltsters petitioned for repeal of the Malt Act, 8 Feb., and the inhabitants for the abolition of slavery, 17 June 1828.11 In May 1830 the young Tory Lord Mahon*, son of the 4th earl Stanhope, who had £3,500 burning a hole in his pocket, considered trying Hedon at the impending general election, observing that the comparatively small electorate made ‘even "polling money"’ a feasible proposition and assuming that the ‘neighbouring landed property’ of his grandfather, the 1st Lord Carrington, would have ‘considerable weight’. However, his adviser Lord Strangford told Stanhope that if Carrington wished ‘to establish or to recover (I don’t know which is his object) an interest’ it would be better to send down one of his Members for Midhurst or Wendover than to throw on the greenhorn Mahon ‘the labour and fatigue of fighting his battle’. In the event Mahon was returned for Wootton Bassett with Villiers, and no other evidence has been found of an intervention by Carrington.12 At the dissolution Baillie unexpectedly abandoned Hedon for Inverness Burghs. Farrand resurfaced, apparently now with corporation approval. The other candidate was the 23-year-old Catholic baronet, Sir Thomas Constable of nearby Burton Constable, hereditary lord of the seignory of Holderness, who was evidently invited by the Ivesons. A threatened third man did not materialize and Farrand and Constable walked over amid much pomp and circumstance and distribution of largesse.13

Wesleyan Methodists petitioned the Lords, 16 Nov., and the inhabitants the Commons, 22 Nov. 1830, for the abolition of slavery.14 Both Members opposed the Grey ministry’s reform scheme, by which Hedon was scheduled for disfranchisement, and they were returned unopposed as the corporation’s endorsed candidates at the general election of 1831.15 On 22 July 1831 Farrand vainly argued in the House that Hedon could be united with the hundred of Holderness to return one Member; and on 1 June 1832 the corporation, burgesses and inhabitants of the borough and freeholders and copyholders of Holderness petitioned the Lords to the same effect.16 Under the new criteria adopted for disfranchisement in the final reform bill, Hedon was ranked 39th in the list of small boroughs, comfortably within schedule A.

Author: Martin Casey


  • 1. E. Baines, Hist. Yorks. (1823), ii. 214-16; PP (1835), xxv. 1541.
  • 2. PP (1831), xvi. 42-43; (1835), xxv. 1537, 1541.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 445-6; J. Markham, 1820 Election at Hedon, 15, 16, 19-20.
  • 4. Hull Advertiser, 3, 10 Mar. 1820; Markham, 10-12, 24-25.
  • 5. Markham, 25-26; Hedon Pollbook (1820).
  • 6. CJ, lxxv. 197, 389; lxxvi. 10, 66, 68, 94, 442; J. Markham, ‘Elections and Electioneering in E. Yorks.’ (Hull Univ. M.A. thesis, 1976), 75-80.
  • 7. CJ, lxxix. 161; lxxxi. 106.
  • 8. Hull Advertiser, 2, 9, 23 June 1826; M.T. Craven New Hist. Hedon, 136-58.
  • 9. Craven, 149-50; Hedon Pollbook (1826).
  • 10. CJ, lxxxii. 70, 71, 112, 117, 120, 132, 133, 146, 240, 268, 269, 373.
  • 11. Ibid. 191; lxxxiii. 26, 443.
  • 12. Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C130/9, Mahon to Stanhope, 22, 24, 26 May; C138/2, Strangford to same, 26 May 1830.
  • 13. Hull Advertiser, 6, 13, 20, 27 Aug.; Hull Rockingham, 7, 14 Aug. 1830; Craven, 163.
  • 14. LJ, lxiii. 78; CJ, lxxxvi. 126.
  • 15. Hull Advertiser, 29 Apr., 6 May 1831; Humberside RO DDCC/45/40.
  • 16. LJ, lxiv. 252.